Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thank You City Councilors

T&G: Worcester councilors narrow tax gap

By Nick Kotsopoulos and Steven H. Foskett Jr.

WORCESTER —  For the second fiscal year in a row, the City Council has narrowed the gap between the city's residential and commercial-industrial tax rates.

The council last night set this fiscal year's residential tax rate at $16.98 per $1,000 valuation and the commercial-industrial rate at $29.08. The vote was 6-5.

The residential rate is 92 cents higher than last fiscal year's rate, while the new commercial-industrial tax rate is $5.57 less than last fiscal year.

But because commercial and industrial property valuations have dramatically increased in many instances, the tax bills for business property owners will still be going up.

Under the new set of tax rates, the average annual tax bill for single-family homeowners will go up by $56 (1.7 percent), based on the average assessment of a single-family home at $198,061. A home assessed at that figure will have an annual tax bill of $3,363.

Meanwhile, the average annual tax bill for commercial property owners will go up by $755 (4.72 percent). The average assessment for commercial properties is $821,138 and those tax bills with the new tax rate will be $16,754.

It is also the first time since 2003 that the commercial-industrial tax rate will not be more than double the residential rate. The new commercial-industrial rate is roughly 1.7 percent greater than the residential rate.

More than 125 people packed the council chamber, with 21 residents and business owners arguing their position on the tax rate. The attendees spilled into the hallway, where a television monitor was set up outside the council chambers.

For more than an hour, business owners told the council that keeping the commercial tax rate high will end up hurting residents, who will have to pay more taxes to fill the void left by businesses that move to towns with more favorable rates.

“There is no doubt that a more equitable commercial tax rate would enable businesses to stay, grow, hire, and compete,” said Roberta Schaefer, executive director of The Research Bureau, which has long advocated for a single tax rate in the city.

Under the new rates, commercial and industrial properties will carry 39.56 percent of the city's tax burden even though they make up just 27.6 percent of the tax base. Residential properties, meanwhile, will foot the bill for 60.4 percent of the tax levy even though they make up 72.3 percent of the tax base, according to city assessors.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty proposed the set of tax rates as a compromise between what was being sought by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and those who favored a set of rates intended to hold the line on tax increases for homeowners.

Mr. Petty said his proposed tax rates recognized that many business owners will be hurting because of much higher than anticipated increases in their assessed valuations.

“This City Council gets it,” the mayor said. “The council recognizes the (tax) burden being placed on the business community. The dual tax system does hurt attracting businesses to Worcester and it is something we have to address.”

Those who supported Mr. Petty's proposed tax rates were: District 1 Councilor Tony Economou, Councilor-at-Large Michael J. Germain, Councilor-at-Large Joseph C. O'Brien, Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton and Councilor-at-Large Kathleen M. Toomey.

Mr. Economou supported the mayor's motion even though he proposed a set of tax rates that would have narrowed the gap between the residential and commercial-industrial rates even further. He called for a residential rate of $17.08 and a commercial-industrial rate of $28.82, but his motion never came up for a vote because the mayor's had already passed.

Those who favored other sets of tax rates were: District 5 Councilor William J. Eddy, Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri, District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera and District 3 Councilor George J. Russell.

Mrs. Lukes and Mr. Russell both favored a set of tax rates that would have increased homeowner tax bills by $1, on average, while increasing tax bills for business property owners by $1,181 on average, while Mr. Palmieri favored the lowest possible residential tax rate.

Mr. Eddy and Ms. Rivera, meanwhile, favored tax rates that were somewhere between what Mrs. Lukes and Mr. Russell had supported and what Mr. Petty had called for.

Most business owners told councilors they supported the recommendation of the Chamber of Commerce, which proposed setting the rates at $17.18 per $1,000 assessed valuation for residents, and $28.56 per $1,000 for commercial and industrial properties. William Kelleher of Kelleher & Sadowsky commercial real estate firm said favorable tax rates in surrounding towns illustrate the competitive disadvantage the city puts businesses at with its current tax structure. He gave the example of the Jamesbury property on the Worcester/Shrewsbury line. The Worcester side of the building is taxed at $1.80 per square foot, while the Shrewsbury side is taxed at $.52 per square foot, he said.

While it's a separate issue, several business owners who spoke mentioned the recent revaluation of city properties that resulted in steep valuation hikes for many local commercial and industrial properties. Combining the valuation spikes without giving business owners some relief on the tax rate could spell economic disaster for the city, they said.

Leonard Zalauskas, a city resident and head of the school teachers union, favored the chamber's recommendation. He said increased economic development would support schools.

Resident John Reed admitted his support for the lowest residential tax rate made his voice a lonely one last night. But he said that while businesses might be popping the cork on champagne at having to pay lower taxes, they were shifting the tax burden back to residents, many of whom have no way to absorb the hit. He called the business community's argument one of false choices, relying on trickle-down economic theories he said have been disproved the world over.

Instead, Mr. Reed proposed, the council should focus more on attracting the gaming industry.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien said the fiscal fourth-quarter tax bills, which will include the new tax rates and new property assessments, will be issued by June 1 and they will be due

GoLocal: Worcester’s Contentious Tax Debate

Walter Bird Jr., GoLocalWorcester Reporter

Whether they liked it or not, Worcester taxpayers finally found out what their tax rate is this year. On Tuesday, just weeks before the end of the fiscal year, city councilors set the residential rate for fiscal 2012 at $16.84 per $1,000 assessed value. The commercial-industrial rate was set at $29.46 per $1,000.

The vote was hardly unanimous – a 6-5 decision in favor of Chairman and Mayor Joseph Petty’s motion. Three other proposals motioned or supported by four councilors never came to a vote. The decision – made during a tax classification hearing that was held months after it should have been – increases the residential tax rate by 78 cents, from $16.06 in fiscal 2011, while reducing the commercial-industrial rate by $15.15. It didn’t satisfy everyone and it wasn’t what the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce had hoped for (its member businesses had backed a proposal that would have bumped the residential tax rate up to $17.18 and lowered the commercial-industrial rate to $28.56).

In the end, some saw it as a move toward what many councilors agreed should be the end game – a single-payer tax rate that was shelved in 1984 when the city adopted a dual tax system. It just won’t happen overnight.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” said Chamber President and CEO Richard Kennedy. “I think it represents positive movement.”
'Fair, Competitive'

In proposing the new rates, Petty called them “fair” and “competitive for the city of Worcester.”

At-Large Councilor and former Mayor Joseph O’Brien, one of those voting in favor of the new rates, said he used to be committed to voting for the lowest possible tax rate for residents.

“That was a mistake,” he said, adding, “When you try to find the middle ground, you run the risk of making both sides unhappy.”

At-Large Councilor and 15th Worcester District state representative candidate Kate Toomey also voted in favor, calling for “some form of compromise.”

“We need to find a fair mix between homeowners and the business community,” said Toomey. “This is the most difficult vote during my time in office. But the mayor’s compromise is the best compromise.”

In Support

Also supporting the mayor were At-Large Councilors Frederick Rushton and Michael Germain, along with a reluctant District 1 Councilor Tony Economou, who had suggested residential and commercial-industrial rates of $17.08 and $28.82, respectively. His was the closest to the chamber’s proposal.

“This is an opportunity to seize the moment, to keep people in their homes and in their jobs,” Economou said. “It’s not residents. It’s not commercial. It’s all of us. We’re all in this together.”
The Opposition

District 5 Councilor William Eddy, At-Large Councilor Konstantina Lukes, District 2 Councilor Philip Palmieri, District 4 Councilor Sarai Rivera and District 3 Councilor George Russell all voted against Petty’s motion, with Eddy looking at the sheets of paper listing the different rate proposals and saying: “I can't find in here justification to look voters in the eye and tell them why I’m raising their taxes this year.”

Russell turned to the mayor when he spoke and said, “I hate to say I told you so, Mr. Mayor, but I told you so.”

The councilor has been a fierce critic of a property valuation process that saw the average residential property value decrease by 3.8 percent over last year. In contrast, some commercial properties saw their valuations skyrocket – in the most severe cases by as much as 400 percent.

“I told you this assessing process was not correct,” Russell said. “I’m not going to turn my back on voters to make good on the mistakes of past assessors or the current assessor.”
'A Challenge'

Among the businesses suffering sticker shock when commercial valuations came out was Saint-Gobain, formerly Norton Company. The average valuation for its properties went up 191 percent, and one of company's properties was on the 400 percent list.  Bob Smith, a vice president with the company, sounded a warning that Saint-Gobain could someday exit Worcester.

“We support a $70 million local payroll and spend $80 million in local community businesses,” Smith said. “We’ve donated $15 million in this city since 1990. Over the past two years, we’ve spent over $10 million to address infrastructure issues. The current valuation puts Saint-Gobain in Worcester among the highest-cost plants globally. It is going to be a challenge to make additional investments going forward.”

Some councilors and speakers at Tuesday’s hearing talked about the “us versus them” mentality when it comes to setting residential and commercial-industrial tax rates, among them Roberta Schaefer, president and CEO of The Worcester Regional Research Bureau.

“The only way to avoid this perennial battle,” said Schaefer, “is to phase in a single tax rate. The council should seize the opportunity to end a policy that has pitted us against one another.”

Her suggestion that a single tax rate could be ushered in within three years, however, was widely dismissed as impossible.

Bills to be Mailed

With the tax rate set, tax bills will soon be sent out. And unless the council decides otherwise, the first quarter bills for fiscal 2013 will arrive in the mail sometime in July. Then the council will meet in either November or December to set next year’s tax rate.

It all makes for a “recipe for disaster,” according to Palmieri, acknowledging no matter what councilors decided Tuesday night, tax bills would be enormous for many residents and business owners. That is likely to lead to a flood of abatement requests, which Lukes fears will be followed by even more after next year’s tax rate is set. Taxpayers have 30 days after receiving their bills to file an appeal.

Like some of her colleagues, Lukes referenced the valuation process. She went a step further, however, in calling for an all-out investigation into why the property values for some businesses went higher than ever before.

“Some have suggested it was criminal,” said Lukes. “Some said it was incompetence. We need an investigation. This council cannot solve those problems tonight. We can deal with the issue of the tax rate amid the controversy over the assessor.”
'An Investment' Made

While council chambers was packed when the hearing started at 7 p.m. – and the heat sweltering – the crowd thinned out considerably as the night wore on. There were noticeable departures when it became clear as councilors talked that the chamber’s proposed tax rate had not gained traction.

Among those walking out were Steve Vaillancourt and his wife, Lisa, of Millbury. They own Advanced Cleaning on Washburn Street, a business they moved to Worcester in 2005.

“We made an investment in ourselves by buying that property,” Steve Vaillancourt said before the hearing. “Do we have something that’s saleable when we retire?”

He said the couple’s first tax bill in 2005 was “just north of $3,000.” The last bill was just under $10,000, he said.

“We don’t think residents should take on everything here,” Lisa Vaillancourt said. “We’d like to see a middle ground.”

Stopped as they left the hearing almost two hours later, Steve Vaillancourt said he hadn’t heard what he’d hoped, saying: “I felt positive going into it. As soon as (Lukes) spoke, I knew where it was going. It’s too pro-constituent. You can see they’re playing right to their constituents. I can understand that, but there’s got to be some balance.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Message to City Councilors

GoLocalWorcester: Worcester Not Tracking Business Growth

Walter Bird Jr., GoLocalWorcester Reporter

 A GoLocalWorcester investigation uncovered Worcester does not know exactly how many new businesses have popped up in the last year or in the last five years in the city, for that matter. The reason: the city doesn't track new businesses through the clerk's office.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 299 business certificates obtained through City Hall. Finding out how many of these businesses are new, however, isn’t as easy as you might think. Currently the city doesn not track how many new businesses open up each month or even each year in the city.

Under the city’s current system, there is no way of knowing which are new companies. To find out, you’d have to cross check the lists from each year – a time-consuming task an already busy city hall staff doesn’t perform.

GoLocalWorcester looked at the business certificates purchased through City Clerk David Rushford from Jan. 1 through May 15, going back two years. The number has risen steadily each year: from 181 in 2010, to 267 in 2011 to 299 this year. But as Rushford pointed out, his department issues the certificates and keeps a public record of them; neither he nor his staff is responsible for determining which were issued to new businesses and which are being renewed.
No one’s responsibility

“We can’t do that,” said Rushford. “It isn’t our function. Our role is confined to the filing of certificates. They’re filed in a public database and anyone who may want to look at that information, or who wants to help small businesses, the information is there.”

It’s there, in a dropdown menu under “Search Public Records” on the city’s Web site. The problem is city officials don’t appear to be searching it.

“We don’t look at business certificates,” Chief Development Officer Timothy McGourthy said. “There are over 6,000 businesses in Worcester, 10,000 according to some counts. Business certificates don’t indicate much in terms of what businesses are in Worcester. It isn’t in any way reflective of the amount of business in the city.”
Starting out

Tell that to Maureen Carroll, a 2011 Worcester State University grad who has been unable to find a job despite sending out 37 resumes since January. Having no luck, Carroll decided to take matters into her own hands and start a cleaning business.

“I have the time and I have the experience of marketing and outreach,” said Carroll, a double major in urban studies and geography who graduated magna cum laude. “It’s not my career goal, but something I can do on my own. It’s a rough world for graduates.”

So Carroll paid for a business certificate to start Heritage Cleaning Solutions, something with low overhead and start-up costs, since it costs just $50 for a business certificate and materials and equipment can be bought relatively inexpensively. As of Tuesday, Carroll was the latest to obtain a certificate from city hall.

“If no one else will hire me, I’ll hire me,” Carroll told GoLocalWorcester. “I’m not going to lie down and die and wet my pants because I can’t find a job.”
Certificates required

Business certificates are filed every four years, as required by state law, for individuals Doing Business As a particular name. They are commonly referred to as DBA’s. Incorporated businesses do not file business certificates with the city. Their records are kept on a state level and some publications list them by city and town. Multiple businesses setting up shop in the same building would also not be reflected on the list of business certificates. The city, McGourthy said, collects data on a piece of property and would have information on a particular building. But corporations operating inside that building would be filed with the state.Not every business filing a certificate would qualify as “small.” One of the filers, for example, was National Grid.

Also worth noting is there is no requirement for a filer to note whether the business is new or simply filing a renewal.

According to Philip Niddrie, the city's Business Retention Manager, the Economic Development Office has been trying to change that, and had asked the city clerk's office to make a notation on each certificate for which businesses were new or refiling. It was, he said, an informal process.

"I haven't gotten any this month," Niddrie said.

There's a reason for that. According to Rushford, state law does not allow him to make any entries on business certificates other than what is allowed. The law currently has no requirement for noting whether a business is new or refiling.

"It was requested, but we don't do that," said Rushford. "I think we did it for two weeks. I'm all about having data available that will be useful. But the law states exactly what is to be placed on the certificate. I cannot add anything to it."
‘Word of mouth’

How, McGourthy was asked, does the city keep track of all new businesses?

“A lot of it is word of mouth,” McGourthy said. “We look at new stores, new activity on the development scene, and try to highlight it as an example of Worcester business activity.”

The Economic Development office publishes a yearly review. The most recent, entitled “Economic Development: 2011 Year in Review,” includes a section that highlights many of the new businesses that emerged last year. The report was authored by McGourthy, City Manager Michael O’Brien and Director of Business Assistance Paul Morano. In the introduction of the report, it reads, in part: “Worcester also welcomed a mix of exciting new commercial establishments, including Nuovo Restaurant, Zorba’s Taverna, Woo Berry, Still and Stir, Anytime Fitness, and Aldi Food Market.”

The report features a list of 35 new food, retail, commercial and entertainment venues, such as New Chef Ho Restaurant, Fried Chicken, Webster Square Vision Center and California Nail.

Who will be on next year’s list is yet to be determined. It probably won’t feature Heritage Cleaning Solutions, because that business isn’t being run out of a storefront. Staying afloat and rising above other new businesses will no doubt be challenging for Carroll. Even McGourthy acknowledges part of the reason the business certificate, or DBA, list isn’t referenced is because most of the companies are “a small percentage of the businesses out there.”

The city does, McGourthy added, try to incorporate all information when analyzing the overall success of businesses in Worcester. One such tool to help do so is Worcester Business Research Alliance, which includes the city and nine other area organizations. That group is holding a seminar for new, start-up businesses on May 23 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as part of National Small Business Week. The free event runs from 7:30-9:30 a.m. in Alden Memorial Hall and will offer advice and assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Keeping track

The issue of tracking new businesses is an interesting one, according to Stephen Eide, senior research associate with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau. That organization does not keep statistics on new businesses, he said. He acknowledged that some businesses, such as the one Carroll has started, may not receive as much attention.

“These are interesting questions because not all businesses are equal,” he said, noting the city also does not keep track of businesses that close.

With the tools it has, the city does its best, according to McGourthy.

“We’re constantly interacting with businesses at all levels. It’s not that we don’t use every bit of data,” McGourthy said. “But we’re trying to stay on top of all these businesses while recognizing our limited resources.”

That said, McGourthy acknowledged his department might be able to make better use of business certificates when it comes to analyzing new businesses in the city.

“It’s something we can look at and see if we can use them more,” McGourthy said. “We have better experience connecting with companies through word of mouth, outreach and various business groups.”

There is a use for business certificates, according to Richard Kennedy, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. There is also a need.

“I believe there could be a better way (of tracking new business),” Kennedy said. “That’s probably not a bad idea. You have to have a pretty good reach into the community. But a business certificate could be used, whether it reflects the lion’s share of business in the city or not. Maybe they could call another community and say, ‘How do you track this?’”

T&G: Worcester residential values down. Real estate tax bill $11.3B


WORCESTER —  The total assessed value for all taxable property in the city has reached $11.3 billion.

The figure, which is based on the city assessor’s opinion of value for all taxable properties as of Jan. 1, 2011, is 6 percent higher than the city’s total valuation for the previous fiscal year, according to city assessors.

The city’s total valuation for fiscal 2011, which ended June 30, was $10.85 billion. The high water mark for the city’s valuation came in 2008, when it reached $12.7 billion.

The increase is fueled in large part by a 25 percent average increase in the assessed valuations of commercial properties, and a nearly 28 percent average increase in industrial properties.

Meanwhile, the average valuations for residential properties, with the exception of apartment buildings, all dropped.

Since 1984, the city has set separate tax rates for residential and commercial-industrial properties, with the latter tax rate often more than double the residential rate.

The City Council will hold its annual tax classification hearing at 7 p.m. tomorrow night in the Esther Howland Chamber. At that time, it will also set the fiscal 2012 tax rates.

Through tax classification, which shifts the tax burden between the two classes of property, the lowest possible residential tax rate that could be adopted by the council is $14.50.

That would translate into an annual tax savings of $435, on average, for homeowners, according to city assessors.

Meanwhile, adoption of the lowest residential tax rate would also translate into a tax rate of $35.57 for commercial and industrial properties and an average tax increase of nearly $4,500.

According to assessors, residential properties now account for 72.3 percent of the city’s overall tax base, while commercial-industrial properties account for 27.7 percent.

That is in contrast to the previous fiscal year, when the breakdown was 78 percent residential properties and 22 percent commercial-industrial.

Significant increases in the valuation of commercial and industrial properties are a major reason why business properties now account for a greater percentage of Worcester’s overall tax base.

According to the assessor, the average assessed valuation of single-family homes has dropped 3.5 percent, to $198,061.

Meanwhile, the average assessed values for condominiums has dropped 7.2 percent ($118,884); two-family homes have dropped 7.6 percent ($186,579); and three-family homes have fallen 4.3 percent ($187,413).

There were 24,811 single-family homes in Worcester, 4,960 condominiums, 3,607 two-family homes and 4,874 three-family homes.

Apartment buildings, which went up 1.26 percent, for an average valuation of $618,162, were the only residential component to have an increase in assessed valuation.

In comparison, assessed valuations for commercial properties rose by 25.1 percent, on average. The 2,332 commercial properties in Worcester have an average assessed valuation of $821,138.

Industrial properties, meanwhile, had assessed valuations that increased by 27.9 percent on average. The 611 industrial properties in the city have an average assessed valuation of $947,499, according to assessors.

T&G: Council tax battle looming

Nick Kotsopoulos Politics and the City

The adage “better late than never” is certainly apropos when it comes to setting Worcester’s fiscal 2012 tax rates.

With just six weeks left to this fiscal year, the City Council will finally get around to setting this year’s residential and commercial-industrial tax rates Tuesday night. The tax classification hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Esther Howland Chamber.

That became possible when the state Department of Revenue late last week finally certified Worcester’s new property valuations that resulted from its triennial property revaluation — a process that ended up taking some two years to complete.

Mind you, the City Council normally sets the tax rates in November or early December at the latest, but this has been anything but a normal year when it comes to getting the DOR to certify the city’s property values.

Now, the fun begins — that being the setting of the tax rates. And this exercise should be anything but routine.

With many business property owners reeling from dramatic increases in their assessments, the local business community sees this as a golden opportunity to try to bring greater balance between the residential and commercial-industrial tax rates, which have been skewed heavily in favor of homeowners for years and years.

More often than not, the commercial-industrial rate has been more than double the residential tax rate. Last fiscal year, for instance, the residential rate was $16.06 per $1,000 valuation while the commercial-industrial rate was $34.65.

While the business community has had relatively little success over the years getting the City Council to bring the tax rates more into balance, things could be much different this time around.

Interestingly, while some individual business owners have spoken out about their skyrocketing property valuations, business leaders in general have not bad-mouthed the city’s property revaluation process. That’s because they fully understand that property assessments are just one factor in the mix; the other just as important factor is the tax rate.

In the end, all that matters is the bottom line — that being what is owed in property taxes.

You kind of get the feeling that business leaders will take the higher property assessments if it means getting a lower tax rate in return.

The higher commercial and industrial assessments have already worked in favor of business property owners, as several city councilors have signaled they will not consider the lowest residential tax rate allowed under tax classification for this fiscal year.

They fear that voting the highest possible tax rate for commercial and industrial properties, combined with the skyrocketing assessments, would place a tremendous tax burden on many businesses.

Indeed, if the council voted the lowest residential tax rate, property taxes for commercial and industrial properties would go up by nearly $4,500 on average, while homeowners would see their tax bill decrease by $435 on average, according to city assessors.

“It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that with the lowest residential tax rate, commercial tax bills would go through the roof,” said Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton.

All of which means that the City Council will have to adopt a set of tax rates that shifts more of the tax burden on to homeowners so businesses don’t get over-burdened with tax increases.

But how far will the City Council go?

And, is it fair to make homeowners pay more in taxes than they otherwise would have had to pay in order to minimize the tax increases for business property owners? After all, if more than 2,000 business properties had been under-assessed for years, as city officials have said, an argument could be made that those businesses weren’t paying their fair share, at the expense of residential property owners.

Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, who has traditionally voted for the lowest residential tax rate, said setting this year’s tax rates will be one of the most difficult decisions this council will have to make.

She acknowledged that adopting the lowest residential tax rate could cripple many businesses, but she does not want to see homeowners have to bear the burden through higher taxes. At a recent council meeting, Mrs. Lukes suggested that homeowners be asked to pay no more of an increase in their property taxes than what they paid the previous year.

But there is no need to even consider that. The tax rates adopted by the council for fiscal year 2011 produced an average tax increase of $178 for homeowners; if the council was to adopt a residential tax rate that generated that kind of tax increase again, the corresponding commercial-industrial tax rate would lower the annual tax bill for business property owners by $178 on average, according to assessors

You know that’s not going to happen. City councilors are going to want business property owners to pay some kind of tax increase if homeowners are going to be paying more in taxes.

The chances seem very good that the commercial-industrial rate will go below $30; just how far though remains to be seen. If the council adopted a residential rate of $16.64 and a corresponding commercial-industrial rate of $29.98, the average tax bill for homeowners would go down by about $11, while the tax increase for business property owners would be about $1,274, according to assessors.

Given that, there seems to be room for the council to go well below a $30 commercial-industrial rate. For instance, a $17.20 residential tax rate and a corresponding commercial-industrial rate of $28.30 would leave homeowners with an average tax increase of $115 and business property owners with an average tax increase of $306, according to assessors.

Such a scenario would make the local business community ecstatic because it would make a significant dent in the imbalance that has existed between the two tax rates.

Yes, something good may actually come out of the skyrocketing assessment increases for the business community.